Bayern Munich cruised into the UEFA Champions League final with a 3-0 victory against Olympique Lyon late on August 19. The Bavarian club will face PSG in the summit clash, and based on form -- they have won 20 games in a row now -- will go in as absolute favourites.
And yet Lyon will reflect on the ifs and buts that define this crazy game called football. Their talisman and creative lynchpin Memphis Depay had a chance to put them ahead in the fourth minute when a brilliant through ball played by Maxence Cacaret put him through one on one against Manuel Neuer. The Dutchman, disappointingly, missed the target.
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It wasn’t the only such chance they received in a frantic opening 15 minutes where Lyon looked the more likely to score. Karl Toko Ekambi hit the upright in the 17th minute, the chance a culmination of a brilliant move and individual skill. Appropriately, he held his face in his palms, shocked at what had happened. More was to come because that was when the tide turned.
Almost from the ricochet off the upright, Bayern pressed high and the ball found its way to Serge Gnabry.
It is tough to overstate the influence the young German had on Bayern’s improved performances this season. If the Bavarian machine is a well oiled, smooth functioning multi-geared object, then Gnabry is that small cog that turns all that kinetic energy into real output. His creativity, skill on the ball -- and the pace at which he executes that skill -- has been the difference many times this season.
So it was against Lyon too. His first was a moment of absolute genius, as he cut in from the right, shrugged off four Lyon defenders, and curled a brilliant left foot finish beyond Anthony Lopes to give Bayern the lead. For their second, it was him again, winning the ball in Lyon’s area, laying out a brilliant pass on the opposite wing and then quite justly (and absurdly) finding himself a yard from goal, the ball begging to be tapped in.
In fairness to Lyon they never gave up and in the second half came out with more purpose, Moussa Dembele replacing Depay for more efficiency. They tested Neuer a few times but in a game of fine margins, crucially never found the net. Bayern always kept them at arm’s length away and in the 88th minute, Robert Lewandowski, the man who has scored 55 goals this season, sealed the deal.
That in the end was the difference. Bavarian efficiency trumping Lyonnais luck. The narrative before the semifinals was about the two countries represented at this stage of the competition for the first time in decades. The scoreline currently stands France 3, Germany 3. There’s that old quote by Gary Linekar about the game being XI vs XI at the end of which the Germans always win. Not many will bet against them now.
36 PSG Fans Arrested
French Police arrested 36 people -- including three minors -- on the night of Paris Saint-Germain’s (PSG’s) victory in the Champions League semifinal.
Many police officers were on duty at the Champs-Elysees, the iconic Parisian avenue that serves as a link between the Arc de Triomphe with the Place de la Concorde.
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Large numbers of fans, mostly young, were seen flouting coronavirus health and safety protocols with most of them without masks. They were seen driving down in their cars, on mopeds and scooters towards Champs-Elysees making loud noises, chanting and blowing horns. The police arrested fans for various reasons such as throwing projectiles, contempt, theft and violence against authorities.
PSG qualified for the finals of the Champions League final after beating Leipzig 3-0.
Arsenal Women Under Pressure
Arsenal women are under pressure to win this year’s Women’s Champions League scheduled to begin on August 21 in the Basque country in Spain. The English side finished in the domestic league after the season got curtailed due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, they need to win in Europe to qualify for the continental championship next season.
Arsenal are the only team in this unique position among the eight quarterfinals at the tournament.
“We do know in our minds that we have to win this thing to still be in the Champions League, which is massive for us," Arsenal forward Caitlin Foord said. "As footballers, you want to be playing in the Champions League, so that definitely gives us something to drive towards.”
On August 22, Arsenal play Paris Saint-Germain at the Anoeta in San Sebastian. The winner will face defending champions Lyon or Bayern Munich.
Chhangte's Sweet Gesture
Indian footballer Lallianzuala Chhangte decided to help a sweet shop owner at his hometown in Lunglei village in Mizoram by buying out gulab jamuns in bulk.
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"Having sweets is not allowed for us under any circumstance, but this is one way we have thought of helping out the shopkeeper here. If buying sweets can bring back the smile for him and his family then why not," Chhangte said.
"I still remember uncle used to try new sweets and share them with us first. While coming back from school, I used to have lunch at his place almost every day. They are so close to my heart," he continued. "After the lockdown was eased off to some extent, I took due permission from the authorities and started going out for training. Then, I found how tough their lives have been. Their pain was constantly haunting me."
Chhangte considered the family of the sweet shop close to his heart as the shop was near the ground where he used to train. The 23-year football took up the initiative to help them out by gathering some young footballers of various Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League teams and trying to revive the business.
Annese New Gokulam Head Coach
Gokulam Kerala have appointed Vincenzo Alberto Annese as the new head coach of the club for the upcoming I-league season.
"I am delighted to be part of the GKFC family. My aim is to make the fans happy and make them dream big. I have already seen how GKFC played last season and I believe the squad can achieve a lot," Vincenzo said.
The 35-year old Italian, previously a coach with the Belize national team has replaced Spaniard Fernando Santiago Varela.
“Annese brings considerable international experience to the club,” the club's chairman Gokulam Gopalan said. “He is young and has already accomplished several achievements. He is the most experienced coach we have had so far. We believe that he would be able to bring more trophies and glory to Kerala.”
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